The Older Brother

“But he was angry, and would not go in …”

— Luke 15:28

After the Prodigal Son had returned to his father, there was great rejoicing. Everyone celebrated the prodigal’s return … everyone, that is, except the older brother. Instead, he moped, and he lashed out at his father for celebrating his brother’s return.

We can put sin into two categories: sins of the flesh, which the Prodigal Son embodied, and sins of the disposition, which are typified by the older brother. Pride was the older brother’s main sin. C. S. Lewis, the great Christian author, has said, “It is pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But pride always means enmity—it is enmity. And not only between man and man, but enmity to God.” Since pride produces nothing but misery and division, it is not surprising that the older brother felt miserable and separated himself from his family.

Some people have tried to excuse the older brother’s tantrum by saying that it was only a fit of temper and nothing to concern ourselves with. But Jesus had enough concern about it to include it in this parable. We can’t dismiss the older brother’s outburst, for his tantrum reveals the rottenness of pride at the core of his being, pride which rose to the surface when his brother returned and would rise again the next time someone threatened his self-righteousness.

For as bad as the prodigal’s sins were, the older son’s sin was worse. While the prodigal came to the father and confessed his sins, the older brother never did. He never entered the house. Night fell and left him outside. And the story ends there. Why? The story ends with the older brother outside in the dark because a person with such a spirit can never enter Heaven. That kind of person must become grateful anew for salvation given in grace, never earned. The love of Christ must come into that person’s heart to remove the pride from his or her soul.

Does this hit a little close to home? Have you ever found yourself a tad indignant that someone who has sinned so greatly receives the same salvation God gives you? Then confess that pride today. Ask God to remove it from your heart. And thank God that His mercy extends to prideful sinners, too.

“Pride and grace dwelt never in one place.”
James Kelly